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Best Cars

Best small cars for 2019

By Martin Pratt

Article 4 of 16

Looking for a great small car? The best small cars are affordable, reliable and easy to drive, yet feel secure on a motorway

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The best small cars are loved by their owners. And for good reason: they're compact enough to be easy to drive in town and just large enough to be comfortable on long-distance trips. 

Plus they're affordable to buy and run, and practical so they cope well with everyday duties. From shopping and the school run, to ferrying about friends or even a daily commute, the best small cars are up to the job.

Below are the very best small cars we've tested – reliable new and used models that scored highly enough to become Which? Best Buy cars. 

We've also uncovered three small cars that are a poor example of the small-car class, displaying none of the comfort and efficiency you'll find in a Best Buy model. These cars are fault prone, dull, and in some cases downright unsafe to drive and must be avoided.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access to our best small cars and all of our online reviews - join Which?

Best new small cars


This all-electric hatchback has decent range and performance, and an upmarket feel typical of the brand. A range extender hybrid version is also available for those who regularly travel further afield.


This advanced motor is technology heavy but doesn't abandon the basics. It's practical, cheap to run and easy to drive.


It's bigger than ever before, but there's no doubting this hatchback is an entertaining and high quality, premium small car. High emissions in our tests, which are more stringent than official ones, prevent it from being a Best Buy.

Best used small cars


It may not get pulses racing, but this used model offers great value for money and has proven to be very reliable. All but the earliest models will still be covered by the balance of its manufacturer warranty, too.


This is one for keen drivers. Performance and handling are excellent, making it a Which? Best Buy. The small cabin and odd boot means there's strictly room for two, though.


It may not be sporty to drive but it gets the basics right and is well suited to drivers looking for simplicity. Practicality remains a great plus point, although the hybrid version loses around 100 litres of boot space due to its batteries.


It's a really good small car choice and gets most things spot on. It's a Which? Best Buy.


This model's range of talents and broad appeal make it easy to see why it's remained a favourite in the UK. It offers a blend of performance, comfort and safety that puts many larger cars to shame.

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And here are three small cars to avoid

Small cars are, well, small, but that doesn't mean they need to feel cramped. We've found models that are deceptively spacious with more legroom than you would expect from the outside. That said, we've found cars that are a tight squeeze for two occupants, let alone five. 

Some manufacturers see the small car moniker as a challenge, adding creative storage solutions and smart folding seats. But other manufacturers see it as an excuse, creating cars with puny, badly-designed boots with high lips that make them difficult to load. 

Being smaller and lighter than most cars doesn't mean a low-powered engine will suffice. Our testing has uncovered engines that struggle to get their cars going. The city car excuse of being designed for driving around town doesn't hold water with small cars. 

They should be as comfortable on a motorway as they are weaving down narrow streets. If the engine can't manage this, then you'll be moving through the gears too often to maintain your speed.

Finally, no matter how small a car is, there is no excuse for it to be unsafe. Our independent testing has uncovered one popular model that has sub-standard crash safety. So we've made it a Don't Buy.

Below, you'll find three of the worst small cars we've tested. These models shouldn't be considered, no matter how tempting the price tag.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access to our table and all of our online reviews - join Which?

Small cars to avoid


This small hatchback is nice to drive and relatively roomy, but it's let down by a three-star Euro NCAP safety rating in standard guise, meaning we can't recommend it.


This compact hatchback has won plenty of fans thanks to its fun styling and low running costs. However, when it comes to the critical aspect of safety it falls down, scoring only three stars in its latest Euro NCAP assessment. As such, it's a Don’t Buy car.


Some cars don’t age gracefully, they get outdated and advances in safety technology render them less safe to drive. This 2016 small car has no such excuse. Low-spec models aren’t fitted with Radar Brake Support, which means the car won’t stop if it detects an imminent collision. Consequently the car only received three stars out of five in its Euro NCAP safety rating.

We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.

Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.

Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs.

And, so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.

To take the guesswork out of choosing your next car, join Which? and you'll receive access to all our expert reviews and advice.